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Game On: PlayStation 4 will be phased out starting in 2025, and that’s OK

June 2, 2022 Updated Thu., June 2, 2022 at 2:41 p.m.

The PlayStation 5, left, hit shelves in November 2020 but is still in short supply due to the global chip shortage, high demand and scalpers. As a result, Sony plans to continue supporting the PlayStation 4, right, until 2025.  (Sony Corp.)
The PlayStation 5, left, hit shelves in November 2020 but is still in short supply due to the global chip shortage, high demand and scalpers. As a result, Sony plans to continue supporting the PlayStation 4, right, until 2025. (Sony Corp.)
By Riordan Zentler For The Spokesman-Review

In Sony’s latest financial presentation, the company formalized its plan to cease producing games for the PlayStation 4 by 2025. Legacy games will still be purchasable, but there won’t be new ones – their focus will shift entirely to the PlayStation 5. That’s a ways off, and 2022’s biggest AAA Sony game – God of War Ragnarok – will still be gracing the PS4 and PS5 alike.

There’s really no room to complain – the PS4’s inevitable discontinuation will be a long time coming. It’s been relevant for far longer than the average gaming console, even with that average going way up in recent years. It wasn’t long ago that systems were typically replaced and rendered obsolete within 4-6 years. The PS4, which debuted in 2013, has had serious legs.

For hardware manufacturers, deciding when is the right time to release the next big console can be a precarious balancing act. Some Nintendo diehards felt betrayed when the struggling Wii U was replaced by the Switch less than five years after its inception, though the Switch has gone on to be Nintendo’s bestselling home console of all time. The Xbox 360 was released just four years after the original Xbox despite great sales, for which Microsoft caught flack.

But no video game hardware company was worse about this than Sega, and even as a diehard, I don’t have to stretch my mind to understand why they lost consumer trust and had to exit the home console market to focus on games and arcades. Sega released a 32-bit add-on for the popular Genesis mere months before doing a surprise launch for the Saturn, the Genesis’ successor. Sega competed with itself, and the launch confused consumers and storefronts alike.

As a result, the Saturn floundered in the West. It sold like hotcakes in Japan, trailing behind the PlayStation but easily outpacing the Nintendo 64. Ultimately, Sega made the risky decision to pull the plug on the console and release the Dreamcast, which became the fastest-selling console of all time in the U.S. Meanwhile, most Japanese consumers were understandably dismayed that the Saturn was being abandoned just four years after its inception.

Sega’s tech was usually leagues ahead of Nintendo and sometimes even Sony, but asking fans to get the latest hardware every few years or be left in the dust was not a winning strategy. Customers took their money elsewhere, and I’m sure the folks at Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft took note of Sega’s mistakes.

It was a different world back then, when everything was physical media. Once a console was finished, all games and peripherals ceased to be stocked in stores and would quickly dwindle away. Today, gamers can use their old PS4 controllers with their PS5 and Xbox One controllers with their Xbox Series X|S – that concept was completely unheard of 10-plus years ago.

In 2022, Nintendo is taking heat for gradually dropping support for their online storefronts for the 3DS and Wii U, which haven’t been relevant for about five years. We now know that similar measures are on the horizon for the PlayStation 4 in 2025 – and again, that seems completely reasonable considering the PlayStation 5 launched in 2020.

Oddly enough, Microsoft seems to be the winner in terms of long-term console support. Perhaps they simply have more server space than they know what to do with because gamers can still purchase and download the vast majority of Xbox 360 games and add-ons online – keep in mind that system is now 17 years old and obsolete by two generations. But I’m sure at some point, they’ll ultimately pull the plug, too.

So, while there are many ways that video gaming is going downhill – corporate buyouts, microtransactions, content paywalls, longer development times and heaps of disappointing “AAA” games among them – the longevity of consoles and official support for them is better than it’s ever been by a long shot.

Riordan Zentler can be reached at riordanzentler@gmail.com.

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